HomeDocuments on SitePersonalDemocratic PeaceDemocide20th C. DemocideMegamurderersLesser MurderersWhy DemocideDimensionsConflictMethodsTheoryPolicyLinks PHOTOS OF DEMOCIDEGalleries

Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 32

A Humanism Between
Materialism And Idealism*

By R.J. Rummel

Humanity will find in itself the power to live for virtue even without believing in immortality. It will find it in love for freedom, for equality, for fraternity.
---- Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, I.ii


The previous parts of this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, have aimed at understanding facets of the psychological field, and have been integrated around a particular theme, such as our perception, behavior, and motivation. These parts have formed a progression, each building on the previous one and each providing the groundwork for the next. The most important consideration, the nature of the self, the will, and our freedom, was treated in previous chapters. It might be well, therefore, to conclude at this point. I have nothing more to say concerning the psychological field, and further embellishment would be only a distraction. In these earlier parts I have laid the psychological foundation for considering further our social interaction and conflict in the next volume, Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix.

But yet, two kinds of questions nag me. First, what kind of values have I brought to bear in trying to understand us psychologically? How do I view humankind in the universe? How does my psychological perspective relate to what we ought to be? These are, of course, profound philosophical questions which go to the very roots of this work. They should not be ignored, for engaging them helps to bare the intellectual assumptions underlying this work and its direction. Second, how is my field conception of humanity related to major philosophical antitheses, such as atomism versus organicism, or absolutism versus relativism?

Now, clearly, in the space remaining I could not do justice to the above questions. Just to deal with value assumptions would require carefully analyzing the nature of values and morality, Hume's dichotomy between is and ought statements, the manner in which this chasm might be bridged, the relationship between science and morality, and so on. However, I feel uncomfortable leaving such questions hanging in this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, and at least want to sketch in my larger and related philosophical-normative view. Thus, this and the following chapters.

My approach in this and the following three chapters will be historical and analytical. The first briefly describes two alternative world views, materialism and idealism; here my aim is to argue that there is a middle way between them called intentional humanism. This is a view of humanity and of reality that provides a framework for a larger understanding of the psychological field and for a more detailed ethical consideration in Vol. 5: The Just Peace. In brief, this view involves two working hypotheses and a set of epistemological norms. The norms stress empirical experience and scientific method within the framework of reason and intuition. Based on these norms, one working hypothesis is that there is continuity among mind, body, and environment, and this continuum comprises an intentional field; the second is that within the constraints of our empirical knowledge, we can choose to interpret reality in the light of our own values and act within such an interpretation to achieve them.

The next two chapters deal with philosophical aspects of the intentional field. Is it organismic? Is it relative or absolute? Do wholes like fields really exist? What about the individual person? In my answer, I argue that the field is an organismic whole greater than the sum of its parts and that these become intelligible only as parts of the field. Moreover, the field consists of essential properties and relationships intrinsic to the field: the intentional field is itself an absolute. The field is real, but its actualization depends on the individual.

The final Chapter briefly concerns the major philosophical-cultural divisions today--those between the Western, Indian, and Chinese views of humanity and of nature. Here I argue that intentional humanism--the perspective on humanity this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, displays--is a compromise emphasizing the individual, our mental nature and the relationship between humanist intuition and science. It puts our mentality at the center of our reality and gives to nature our scale and perspective. meanings, values, and intentions. Moreover, the intentional field is the nature relevant to us, but does not include all that we are, for our free being, our morality, our individuality, our creativity, our capacity to exercise choice are independent of the field. To completely define nature, therefore, we must consider it to have a distinct mentalistic component: our free-will.

Undoubtedly, these chapters are too philosophical and abstract for most readers. For some others, they will be too summary, too incomplete, insufficiently historical or analytical. Perhaps the most unhappiness will center around a lack of focus on concrete normative issues, those of political freedom, equality, order, welfare, and so on, As a political scientist with a deep interest in political philosophy, I have such concerns uppermost in mind. In a volume on praxis, Vol. 5, The Just Peace, I must and will deal with these issues within the framework developed throughout this book and in relation to conflict, violence, and war. But here the framework, its foundation, and its assumptions are the foci. I might mention, nonetheless, that I consider our external freedom the highest value, and coercion and force the greatest evils. Moreover, I believe that diversity and competition between different ideas, groups, societies, and cultures are positive contributions to our evolution and should be encouraged and protected. Clearly, these norms fit comfortably in a philosophy such as intentional humanism that views each person as free and able to create our own future.


Behold! human beings in an underground den ... their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move ... they see only their own shadows or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave.
---- Plato, The Republic, VII

The history of Western philosophy has been largely a struggle between two characterizations of reality: idealism and materialism. Although one or the other has predominated during part of this history, as idealism did in Greece during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and in Europe during the Middle Ages, and as mechanistic materialism did in Rome before Christ and does today in the West, at no time has either completely eclipsed the other in the West as has idealism over materialism in India's history1 As a matter of historical fact, which may be a surprise to some, there appears in the West no continuous linear trend toward idealism or materialism but rather a recurring movement between the two.2


 Extreme or mechanistic materialism can be traced back at least to Leucippus (fifth century B.C.) and his pupil or associate Democritus. They believed all happens by necessity--there is no chance--and that the universe contains only empty space and atoms. All sensations are the result of atoms impinging on our senses. More than a century later, Epicurus accepted this view of reality and added an ethic giving materialism a double meaning down to our age: although the world is only atoms and space and we are accordingly a natural product, our will is still free to seek happiness. And happiness is the highest goal. Centuries later, the materialism of Democritus and the ethics of Epicurus were expounded in On the Nature of things by the Roman poet Lucretius for whom even the soul was made up of atoms.

From the time of Lucretius until the seventeenth century, the belief in a fundamentally spiritual universe and the human soul dominated by God ruled Western philosophy. The rise of the natural sciences, the translations of Greek classics during the Renaissance and the questioning attitude encouraged by their reading, and the loosening hold of the Church due to its moral-spiritual confusion and schisms at the top encouraged a number of naturalistic movements. It was not, however, until the seventeenth century that materialism achieved its revival. One of those responsible for this was the French philosopher, Pierre Gassendi, a most influential thinker of that time. Much impressed by Epicureanism and atomism, he developed a material theory of our psychology and senses. Not completely removed from the spirit of his age, however, he did allow for a God and a nonmaterial mind. Hobbes, whose sociopolitical conception of the state of nature is of considerable interest to students of international relations, was also responsible for the revival of materialism. Hobbes felt that space was filled with an intangible ether in which bodies are in motion. All change in things as well as in our sensations and thought consists of motion, which itself is caused by contact between corporeal bodies.

This mechanistic materialism has been carried down to our day in one form or another, and has been encouraged by such developments as those in organic chemistry establishing material substances and interactions as necessary components of life; in biology by Darwin and Huxley, which gave natural explanations for living things; and in physics in which mechanical cause-effect, push-pull, theories have had conspicuous success. In the face of these developments, theology and such supernatural beliefs as vitalism have been in constant retreat since the seventeenth century. Today, in the minds of most Westerners, the material conception of reality dominates. What ontological issues they now see focus on mind.

In this context, one can point to four contemporary materialistic movements. The first is dialectical materialism. Although not a thoroughgoing mechanical materialism, especially as elaborated by Engels, it is a materially based, naturalistically and scientifically oriented ideology that has had wide anti-idealistic effects. This perspective largely grew out of Ludwig Feuerbach's naturalistic materialism, which assumed that truth was discoverable only by empirical science and took a realistic view of reality. Feuerbach was much opposed to any idealism that would undermine the importance of sense data and rejected dualism as supernaturalism. Also much influenced by Hegel's dialectical method, he thought that thinking and acting go together, that scientific advancement and improving humanity are inseparable. In line with this pragmatic conception, Marx felt, as Lenin would so forcefully argue later,3 that a belief in materialism is crucial to social improvement.

Marx was not much interested in abstract philosophical questions, and it was left to Friedrich Engels to give a more ontological elaboration of dialectical materialism.4 In brief, Engels held that the universe is material and primary, without quite accepting the complete reduction of mind to matter. He believed in a mild dualism: the mind exists and is nonmaterial, but it is secondary in importance and has developed out of a material universe. While opposed to "vulgar materialists," those who think that all is reducible to physical bodies, Engels did argue that material things are, however, reflected in the brain. Like Marx, Engels felt that our utilization of things leaves no doubt about their materiality and that practice itself provides the proof for materialism (as in Johnson's alleged disproof of Berkeley's idealism by striking a stone with his foot and exclaiming, "I refute it thus").

It was left to Lenin to develop these doctrines in a most coherent fashion and to draw out the ideological implications in his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. He treated dialectical materialism as not only a philosophy but as a program for socialist development. Socialists must have a correct--a dialectical and material--view of reality if they are to understand the function of ideologies in justifying class interests. Efforts to further proletarian interests are bound up with one's philosophy, and because of this socialists must be watchful against the dilution and pollution of dialectical materialism by religion or idealism. This explains Lenin's concerted attack on the philosopher-physicist Ernst Mach, who tried to rid science of all metaphysics and base science totally on sense data. Lenin saw this forerunner of logical positivism (the second materialist doctrine I will consider below) as undercutting the very supports of dialectical materialism, the belief in causation, the concept of natural law, and the belief in certain, objective knowledge. Lenin felt Machism to be a species of muddled idealism, which by closing science off from certitudes left the door wide open to religion.

Since Lenin, no major thinkers have added to dialectical materialism. Stalin was not a theoretician and gave nothing of his own to Marx-Leninism; Mao, whom many (especially among Western youth) considered a major Marxist philosopher, has written some theoretical pieces.5 but these are simply a restatement of Engels and Lenin, with some traditional Chinese Yin-Yang dialectics thrown in. Dialectical materialism is still on the rise and is sustained as the official doctrine of all totalitarian communist countries.

Less successful has been that materialist-oriented movement, logical positivism,6 which grew in part out of Mach's sensation-based philosophy and is associated with the work of Otto Neurath,7 Rudolph Carnap,8 and others of the Vienna Circle.9 While not of much influence in continental Europe, where existentialism, phenomenology, and neo-Kantianism have come to dominate, logical positivism (or logical empiricism or positivism) has found fertile soil in the empirically oriented Anglo-Saxon countries, especially among behavioral social scientists.10

Logical empiricism does not contain a doctrine about what reality is, but rather about how we should approach reality. This epistemological materialism asserts that all statements must be meaningful, and that to be meaningful a statement must be intersubjectively testable (the so-called verifiability principle, which is supposed to carve away metaphysics). And what is intersubjectively testable must refer to physical properties, if observers are to agree. Thus, statements of the mind, expressing internal feelings, thoughts, insights, and motives are meaningless unless they manifest some physical change or behavior. If mind is to be given a meaningful place in the universe of physical objects and processes, therefore, it is only according to its physical properties and effects.

Two other, materialistically oriented contemporary movements can briefly be mentioned. One is analytic behaviorism associated with Gilbert Ryle11 and to a certain extent, Ludwig Wittgenstein. The major principles of this movement are that mental faculties are reducible to dispositions to behave in certain ways in specific circumstances and that these dispositions are themselves based on the body's physical state. Moreover, references to the state of mind, to inner processes of thought, must be to publicly observable conditions or behavior. The second movement is central state physicalism,12 which emphasizes a neurological--and thus physical interpretation of mind. Physicalists recognize a distinction between dispositions (tendencies to behave, feel, or think in certain ways) and other mental activities, but believe all such mental states are states of the nervous system. Thus, any spiritual quality or uniquely mental faculty (or "ghost in the machine" to use Gilbert Ryle's term) is thereby exorcised.

In the historical and contemporary varieties sketched (in very broad brush) so far, materialism has three interdependent characteristics. First, either the world is primarily made up of material things and processes or our knowledge must be limited to such. Second, explanations of the world around us, as well as our mental activities, involve reference to previous physical conditions. And third, the world is deterministic. What was causes what is. Developments in quantitative physics, particularly the indeterminancy principle of Heisenberg, have softened this determinism somewhat, but still the more concrete and spectacular success of classical physics (mechanics) undergirds a mechanical cause-effect world view.

Materialism provides a simple and economic perspective, which appears most compatible with our experience and observations. Moreover, materialism seems, and this may be its most attractive element, the only metaphysics most consistent with scientific knowledge and attitude. However, it should be also clear that were materialism correct, the world would be without purpose and our life without meaning. Morality, which must assume free will, and thus responsibility for immoral acts, would be a delusion.13 Practicing this inference is unwarranted however, since the materialist premises are far from established.

Materialists make the error of assuming that because most science supports a materialistic view and the immediately sensed suggests a materialistic interpretation, all science supports this view and all reality is material. This hardly follows. Developments in quantum physics raise questions about fundamentally physical interpretations of nature, and the existence of action at a distance14 through little understood magnetic and gravitational fields at least should cast suspicion on a reality wholly made up of matter in motion and physically transmitted causes.

For contemporary materialists, however, this may be beating a horse already dead. Agreeing that an attempt to paint the universe completely in terms of matter, space, time, and motion is a naive materialism, they nonetheless may assert that physical laws of some kind govern physical processes, that all that we know, including magnetism and quantum phenomena, are reducible to natural laws, and that mental faculties themselves are so reducible. This milder form of materialism, which treats mind and body as different aspects of the same natural and law-governed (but not God-governed, as with Spinoza) reality, still confronts some difficulties.

For one, in spite of the neurological treatments of mind, there is still no convincing explanation of introspective awareness. I think, I know I think, and as I write this I am aware of my mental faculties which are (not seem or appear) a universe apart from the body and external world which I sense. This inner awareness of our minds that we share in common as humans is a type of experience at least as important as that of the external world. Yet, this inner world which we know introspectively is not explicable yet by natural laws and is not reducible yet to natural processes. For the mild materialists to argue that all is reducible to natural laws and processes is to argue from only one realm of experience, that of reality external to mind, while ignoring the experience of the inner mind.

However, one does not have to rest the argument on inner experience alone, which is the traditional source of idealistic attacks on materialism, but can point to the parapsychological evidence that has been accumulating.15 It still bothers many scientifically oriented people to talk as though unaided mental communication (telepathy) between people across half the globe, a sixth mental sense, mental control over physical objects (telekinesis), and so on were anything but spiritualism, mysticism, and the belief in miracles and ghosts written in a more modern, perhaps science-fiction-derived terminology. Of course this incredulity implicitly begs the question. Based on a physicalistic or law-like world view, that which does not fit this scheme is of course supernatural. However, to define it as supernatural does not rule out the existence of this paraphenomena. For mild or extreme materialists to ignore this aspect of the mind is to leave materialism where it remains today: the fundamental expression of faith, amenable neither to experience nor argument--a secular theology allied with science.


 Is idealism, the antithesis of materialism, more acceptable? Let us see. Idealism in one way or another gives primacy to mind (leaving out theistic idealism, which asserts God as most fundamental) over body. Material substances and processes may have no existence independent of mind (subjective idealism) or while existing, this reality may express human purposes and values; or reality's basic nature may be mind in that our conceptions of reality are more determined by mind than matter itself (objective idealism). Idealists emphasize that there is an organic unity to the world that is simply more than the sum of its parts (it is something more than a machine that God set running).

The father of Western idealism was Parmenides of Elea (sixth century B.C.), who argued that all things are one--a unity underlying appearance--and that motion and change are unreal. There is only being, no becoming. Parmenides' ideas later culminated in Plato's objective idealism. For Plato, a reality of eternal and perfect ideas (or forms), such as hardness, underlies all appearances, such as something hard. That which we sense only more or less represents these ideas, this underlying reality knowable by the mind. The highest idea for Plato was the Good; to know it was the highest goal of knowledge.

Platonism was perhaps the most influential philosophy of Greece, especially when it, in combination with the Jewish tradition, infused early Christianity. The Christian Platonists of Alexandria in the third century were partly responsible for this, but much of the marriage of Platonism with Christianity and the transformation of Plato's objective idealism into theistic idealism belongs to the founder of Neo-Platonism, Plotinus (A.D. third century). The ultimate reality is God, wrote Plotinus, from which all things come. Matter is imperfect and unreal. Soul stands above matter, and between God and soul is mind.

In the early eighteenth century two major idealist works appeared: one by George Berkeley (Principles of Human Knowledge), the other by G. W. Leibniz (Monadology). Berkeley has been by far the more influential of the two, and it is his brand of subjective idealism at which attacks on idealism are usually directed. His belief, called immaterialism, was that material substances can have no reality independent of mind for us. All we know of the external world we perceive through our senses. A tree is only a collection of sensations plus ideas, our conceptions of treeness, organizing our sensations. That matter should be independent of the senses is itself inconceivable, according to Berkeley.

His belief that substances depend on independent perceiving beings is reasonable, compared to Leibniz's bizarre (to the contemporary intellect) monadology. Leibniz argued that matter is composite, made up of noncomposite perceiving things--units of force--called monads. These monads, each unique and serving as a point of view or a perspective on the universe, are stratified into body monads, soul monads, and the monad God, the supreme spiritual substances. While unique, these monads are interdependent and form a logical harmony among themselves. In comparison to Berkeley, whose idealism was empirically based (all we know is what we sense), Leibniz believed reason alone proved his philosophy.

Later in the same century the transcendental idealism of Immanual Kant appeared. Since its inception this architectonic--intellectual tour de force has been the most important and influential philosophical system. Even those who strongly disagree with his system cannot ignore it. My own conceptions owe much to Kant, and I have had frequent reason to refer to him throughout this book. Relevant to idealism, Kant developed a dualism that allowed for an external reality, but gave mind pre-eminence in understanding it. Specifically, he argued that neither reason nor sense perception by itself yields knowledge. What we get through our senses alone are fleeting and confused impressions. Thought by itself is empty: it cannot give us knowledge of ourselves or reality. To be intelligible, our perceptions must be organized by reason that is within our a priori intuition of space and time, and cause and effect. And reason must be given content by our senses. There exists, therefore, a transcendental self that synthesizes our sensations with these a priori intuitions, or categories of understanding. Moreover, as to a reality outside the mind, Kant assumed such to exist because, he pointed out, to know ourselves mentally requires an opposing external reality against which to contrast ourselves.

Because of this intimate connection between reason and sensory perception, between mind and body, Kant considered thought as an activity. We bring to reality preset categories of understanding, and do not just reflect or mirror reality with our minds (when unclouded by prejudice) as Descartes argued. However, within the limits organized by these a priori categories, we learn from reality. We can improve our knowledge through experimentation and testing. Thus to gain knowledge we must be able to explore, to learn. We must have freedom. Because of our moral nature, Kant hypothesized that a materialistic determinism that would chain reason to physical causes and laws must be false.

Much influenced by Kant, Johann Fichte was the first of the so-called absolute idealists. He believed that the true reality is will, that our mind cannot be explained within a system of cause and effect. All that which is outside the mind is the objectification of the will of an Absolute Spirit, manifesting itself most in the leading culture of each age. Impressed by both Kant and Fichte, Hegel thought of an Absolute as Universal Reason, evidenced by the uniformities of nature. Although reality to Hegel is a unity of thought and being, he saw it differentiating itself into diverse forms and apparent opposites. Thinking is a dialectical process, moving toward a unity (synthesis) underlying nature's theses and antitheses (opposites). This is historically a continuous movement in which thought is successively approaching the True, the Whole, the One of the Absolute. Knowledge then must be looked at holistically, as a system giving meaning to individual ideas and facts. This dialectical development is seen in the history of separate states; through Great States, in particular, the Absolute is approached. History, for Hegel, is the dialectical process on a global stage; it is through the dialectical opposition and conflict between states that the human race is moved successively to reason's highest attainment, Freedom.

Hegel and Kant have had considerable philosophical impact. By the twentieth century, Western philosophy, particularly in the United States and England, was dominated by some form of Neo-Hegelianism or Neo-Kantianism, and even such modern movements as dialectical materialism, phenomenology, and existentialism reflect their thought. This domination in the English-speaking countries, however, was temporary and soon gave way to empiricism and positivism.

In one form or another, the idealist conceptions so briefly considered basically reduce to the following arguments. First, our moral character, our weighing of reality in terms of right and wrong, our sense of moral responsibility and duty, imply a purposive universe. For if mind were but matter, and thus fully determined, how could we explain our moral sense? Some idealists, therefore, argue from our moral character to a moral universe by postulating a third superior moral element entailing both mind and matter, such as God. Without such a bridge, however, we may be moral creatures and there can still be in itself a meaningless, purposeless external reality. The two are not necessarily contradictory, for we may overlay this reality, paint this reality with our particular moral evaluations in the light of our purposes. A tree may be neither good nor bad, but on a field blocking a farmer's plow, it will be bad; in a park giving shade to picnickers, it will be good.

But then, does not the existence of our morality imply something more to the universe than just matter, laws, and physical processes? Two answers may be given. First, we may be sui generis, a unique outgrowth of physical processes transcending them in that the product, our mind, is qualitatively different (as water is more than just hydrogen plus oxygen). It is self-actualizing and teleological, while the rest of nature may be still the realm of law and physical processes and matter. Thus, the universe may contain, dualistically, mind and matter without contradiction. The second answer is that this purposiveness is illusory. Morality may be only the layering of mental dispositions resulting from our different cultures, our human nature, and our environment. We may feel morally responsible, and we may impute responsibility to others; but in reality our morality may be no less determined than other physical processes. In any case, the nontheistic idealist argument from morality would support at best a mind body dualism, but not unless further arguments, such as the next one, are brought in

A second argument of idealism is based on the nature of knowledge. Our sensory knowledge of reality is imperfect, since no two people have exactly the same perceptions and impressions of external reality. We can however, have perfect knowledge of our inner reality. That I just saw a tree is subject to doubt, that I just thought of the concept tree is without question. Therefore, because we cannot get outside our senses, what is known must be mental. This is Berkeley's argument in essence. And as a psychological thesis it is unexceptionable. Truly, we are chained to our bodies and can only enjoy certitudes in the privacy of our minds. But as an assertion about reality, the argument fails, for to say we can only know mind, is not to say external reality is mental. It only says that our knowledge of this reality can never be perfect. Beyond what we can know, however, reality (including ourselves) may still consist of Democritus' atoms, Leibniz's monads, or Hobbes's matter.

Another kind of idealist argument is that science itself, as it pushes deeper into the study of matter and physical processes, must increasingly utilize constructs that serve only to account for effects or serve as theoretical links. Gravitational and magnetic fields are such constructs.16 So are energy or quantum, an n-dimensional space. And is it not some embarrassment to the materialist that light and electrons (a construct) are considered as particles or waves depending on the application? As the idealist then will point out, what are constructs but mental creations? They are constructions of the mind, and although they may have sensory referents, they are not meant to be things-in-themselves. It is true that the materialist case has been considerably weakened by developments in modern science, especially in the recognition of the abstract (mental) nature of theories and constructs. This does not mean, however, that the idealist is correct in assuming reality is mental. Science may simply be going through a transition stage and a unified mechanical model, and more consistent physical laws may still supersede current constructions. Constructs may simply represent the current stage of science and the limitations of our contemporary knowledge, and not reality.

The upshot of these idealist arguments is that they cast more doubt on materialism than provide evidence for idealism. The belief that reality is mental, that the universe has human meaning or purpose, or that mind dominates over matter remains unproved by reason or evidence. Like materialists, in the final analysis idealists must commit themselves to an act of personal intuition, or faith.


 Then where does this leave us? My answer involves two working hypotheses, one descriptive and the other ethical, and a set of epistemological norms. The norms place reliance on our empirical experience and on the scientific method, insofar as it stresses the conditionality of empirical knowledge, its public character, and the value of open criticism, debate, argument, and tests. Scientific method in this sense decidedly does not mean reduction to physics or any other natural science. It simply accepts the partiality of knowledge and appeals against dogmatism and to our experience. It is an understanding of science within which traditional scholarship as well as quantitative research can fit comfortably, as I hope The Dynamic Psychological Field shows. Moreover, the appeal to experience does not exclude reason nor intuition. Reason structures and organizes our experience; intuition provides direction, insights, and initial hypothesis. We can fly as high as we wish in our speculations or plunge as deep as we dare, but at some point our exertions must confront our concrete empirical observations and experience.

Based on these norms, one working hypothesis is that nature is partly mental insofar as it includes our reason and will, but nature also comprises matter (phenomena), physical laws, and processes. There is continuity between mind, body, and environment that involves no distinct boundaries. We are imprisoned by our perspective to be sure,17 and this perspective organizes our perceptions by constructs of space, time, cause, and effect as Kant argues, but there must also be convergence of our perspective transformation of external reality to what really exists. For if there were not, we could hardly survive as a species. And for this reason there must be some truth to commonsense materialism. As an example, when driving a car there must be a fairly good perceptual-mental correspondence between one's perspective on the car, other cars, the highway, and one's steering, acceleration, and braking. If not, as when one is drunk, then one perspective would soon be eliminated violently. In any case, what I am proposing here is the working hypothesis that mind exists as a continuum with an objective reality, and that those phenomena interrelated with our motives, sentiments, attitudes, and superordinate goal comprise a field of our culture, body, and environment--an intentional field. Moreover, from our perspective, this field does not exhaust reality, for there is an aspect of our mind that extends outside (again recognizing no distinct boundaries) this field: our reason, our free will. The determinism of science and free will of the idealists are treated as compatible, then. Determinism and chance both operate within this phenomenal field; will overlaps it. Reality is then a seamless tapestry where differences and dependencies shade off into each other, here physical, there mind; here potentiality, there actuality; here dispositions, there power; here a field, there free will; here culture, there instincts; here humanity, there physical nature. We cannot know whether this is in reality true or not. We can treat it as provisionally true, however, draw out its implications in the search for inconsistencies, apply its suggestions, and pragmatically test its conclusions.

Considering now the second working hypothesis, it seems that whatever morality or values the universe contains are what we give it. In a moral sense and from our perspective, the universe is human-centered, since its moral qualities are those imputed by us. Even were other intelligent beings to exist elsewhere in the universe, which I believe must be true, this fundamental point would not be contradicted, for they could see things in the light of their own morality, while still describing and explaining things physically consistent with our scientific perspectives. Even on earth, between different cultures, a wooden stick can be a religious object, a weapon, or an example of nature's beauty. Yet each culture can describe the stick's physical attributes similarly.

As I have argued in Section 24.1of Chapter 24 and in Chapter 30, if we lay on nature its meaning and purpose,18 then we can choose to interpret nature in the light of our own purposes, as long as such interpretation is not inconsistent with observation. If, for example, interpreting history as a dialectical process which is moving us gradually toward freedom and justice is not inconsistent with historical evidence and if acting on this interpretation will indeed help us so progress, then why not adopt hypothetically this perspective?

What I then propose to consider as a working hypothesis is this: Within the constraints of our empirical knowledge, we can choose to interpret reality in the light of our own values and act within such an interpretation to achieve them. In other words, within the constraints of our intentional field, our future is in our hands.

To summarize this Chapter, there are two opposing views of reality: one emphasizes a determined universe of matter and physical process in which mind is, at best, subordinate; and the other believes in our free will and a universe that is fundamentally and at least primarily mental. Both views come down to acts of faith; neither can be proved by reason or evidence. There is a middle view, however, which might be called intentional humanism, It synthesizes elements from both positions without the dogmatic commitment either entails. In essence, intentional humanism treats our knowledge as provisional and improvable through the use of a broad conception of scientific method. It proposes two working hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that reality comprises a continuum among mind, body, and external reality; that part of this continuum is an intentional field containing our psychological dispositions, our biological nature, our culture, and the environment; that we are free to propose and work toward the future of our choice. The second working hypothesis views us as the moral center of the world, capable of interpreting reality in terms of our values, giving it our meaning, and choosing the moral perspective on the universe most suitable to our development and potentialities. 


* Scanned from Chapter 32 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

** The following chapters are Chapter 33, 34, and 35.

1. Except for some minor schools without much enduring influence, like the Charvaka and Nastika, Indian metaphysics has been completely idealistic throughout its history. The following passage is characteristic of this thought: "All phenomena originate in the mind, and when the mind is fully known all phenomena are fully known. For by the mind the world is led . . . " ("Ratmamegha Sutra, Siksasamuccaya," in W. Theodore de Bary [ed.], Sources of Indian Tradition, New York: Columbia University Press, 1958: 121-122).

2. Pitirim Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics (New York: American Book Co., 1937-41), vol. 2, chap. 15.

3. V.I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (New York: International Publishers, 1927).

4. Friedrich Engels, Herr Eugen Diihring's Revolution in Science, 1878, trans. E. Burns (London, 1934); Ludwig Feuerbuch and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (1886; translations published in London, 1935).

5. Such as "On Practice" and "On Contradiction," both of which are in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 196 7).

6. For an introduction to this movement and bibliography, see Alfred J. Ayer (ed.), Logical Positivism (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1959).

7. Einheitswissenschaft und Psychologie (Vienna, 1933); Le Developpement du Cercle de Vienne et Vavenir de Vempiricisme logique (Paris, 1935).

8. The Logical Structure of the World, trans. R. George (London, 1965).

9. See Victor Kraft, The Vienna Circle, trans. Arthur Pap (New York, 1953).

10. In political science specifically, it seems that methodology means logical empiricism. In American political science graduate courses for example, students are often required or encouraged to take a philosophy of science or methods course, and so far as I know this course is usually taught from a positivist perspective.

11. The Concept of Mind (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1949).

12. See, for example, Herbert Feigl "The 'Mental' and the 'Physical'," in Herbert Feigl et al. (eds.), Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science, vol. 2 (Minneapolis, 1958).

13. If, as materialism generally assumes, the mind is reducible to physical laws, events, or processes, then it is not possible for reason to be independent of the phenomenological world. But this independence is necessary to hypothesize free will. Thus, the determinism of materialism is of a different kind than that causal and lawful necessity which Kant argued was compatible with freedom. See Chapter 30.

14. See Section 2.1 of Chapter 2.

15. C. D. Broad, Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1953), and Lectures on Psychical Research (New York: Humanities Press, 1962); Whately Carington, Thought Transference (New York: Creative Age Press, 1946); Fabian Gudas (ed.), Extrasensory Perception (New York: Scribner's and Sons, 1961); J. B. Rhine, Reach of the Mind (New York: William Sloane Assoc., 1947); S. G. Soal and Frederich Bateman, Modern Experiments in Telepathy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954).

16. See Section 2.3 of Chapter 2.

17. See Chapter 8 where our perspective transformation of reality is discussed in detail.

18. Clearly I am ignoring the theological argument that God gave us and nature moral purpose. Leaving aside the complex question of what we shall understand by "God," treating the universe as God-centered (as, say, Spinoza did in treating us and nature as two aspects of God) has undesirable consequences. First, the problem is shifted from what is the proper morality for us to what is God's morality. The quest becomes descriptive, a matter of revelation and faith, rather than prescriptive, a question of turning ourselves into what we want to be. Second, as a theological issue, the definition of God's morality becomes dogmatic and unconditional. This is opposed to the very norms I am arguing for here as intentional humanism. Even treating God's morality as a working hypothesis would ultimately lead, as it has historically, to arguing an absolute Truth.

You are the visitor since 11/25/02

Go to top of document